What Do I Think About James Gunn?

I’ve been catching up with the Gunn firing story.  Vox Day has several links, posts and a podcast about it.  http://voxday.blogspot.com/2018/07/darkstream-saint-chan-takes-on-hollywood.html

Aside from any consideration of tactical or strategic importance the ironic nature of Gunn’s position is worth considering.  The messages where he revels in Roseanne Barr’s firing are extremely comical in retrospect   https://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2018/07/ben-shapiro-loses-debate-defending-disgraced-perverted-disney-director-james-gunn/

But I guess what everyone wants to know is whether this is a one off or is it part of a larger campaign.  Disney has always been something of a special case.  Their link to children through their legacy and current products is so important to the company that any hint of pedophilia has to be handled by extreme measures.  But now that a precedent has been set it’s possible that it could affect Fox too.  After all, Disney is currently negotiating to buy Fox’s entertainment business.  This includes the X-Men and Deadpool franchises from Marvel.  Based on the vibe from these movies I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out that several of the “creative types” behind these films have skeletons in their closets.  In order to satisfy Disney’s squeaky-clean image Fox might have to unload anyone who even approaches James Gunn’s level of unwholesomeness.  Is this the case?  Who knows?  But it’s certain that the folks working with Cernovich have archived a lot of tweets and are prepared to use them to embarrass and possibly un-employ people on the left.  Timing is probably being used strategically.  The next Guardians of the Galaxy movie was beginning production.  Forcing them to switch directors now would be least difficult and therefore least detrimental to Disney’s bottom line.  Possibly future attacks will be timed to coincide with business decisions by the other studios.  We’ll have to wait to find out.  But it is encouraging when the Left’s own tactics are used by the Right and used effectively.  The New Right is not the new Stupid Party.

The Original Twilight Zone TV Series – An SF&F TV Review

Every summer the SyFy Channel features an enormous number of Twilight Zone episodes for no apparent reason.  And every year I watch way too many of these episodes.  It’s a moral failing of mine.  I think it’s because the show was on too late for me to watch when I was young so I felt deprived and therefore overvalued what I couldn’t get.  And watching these episodes every year drives home one fact, that most Twilight Zone episodes are stunningly bad.

To be fair, there is a small number of actually good episodes.  A debate can be had as to whether there are five or ten good episodes.  Opinions and tastes differ but it’s somewhere in that range.  Then there are another twenty or so that are watchable.  The plots are predictable and the acting is mediocre at best but watchable.  That leaves well over a hundred episodes that are actually painful to watch.  Let me give an example.

In the episode “King Nine Will Not Return” a man regains consciousness next to his crashed bomber aircraft somewhere in the North African desert during World War II.  By the end of the episode you find out this is a dream this man has as a result of his feelings of guilt for missing the mission where the bomber was shot down.  So far so good.  Psychological pain, some kind of manifestation where he physically visits this time and place and is allowed to heal.  Sure, why not.  Now what is the scene?  You have the protagonist standing around in what must be the California desert yelling and emoting about his anguish for his missing crew mates.  It’s like some unscripted improvisational method acting workshop.  Five minutes in you’re heading to the kitchen to get some snack or drink just to avoid the whole embarrassing spectacle.  I found myself pitying the actor doing the scene and wondering if the experience of performing this drivel might have driven him out of acting and into some honest profession like loan sharking or leg breaking.  But every time I returned my attention to the tv screen there he was yelling and grimacing and crying.  Mercifully it finally ended and I have sworn a mighty oath to never watch that episode again while there remains any hope at all for intelligent human life to continue on this planet.

Admittedly, not all bad episodes are that horrible.  Some are just stupid and annoying.  These usually involve mannequins or robots that think they are human.  They even did this to Anne Francis in an episode called “The After Hours.”  She’s in a department store and by the end of the episode she remembers that she’s an escaped mannequin.  I think we’re supposed to be glad she’s found her way back to where she belongs.  But it’s all so pointless that you really can’t be sure.

So, most of the episodes stink, but which ones do I admit liking?  Here they are:

  1. Nightmare at 20,000 Feet
  2. Nick of Time
  3. To Serve Man
  4. Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?
  5. It’s a Good Life

And now I’ll tell you what I like about them.  The first four episodes I find comical.  The first two have William Shatner starring.  You can’t go wrong with Shatner.  He was born to act on the Twilight Zone.  The terrible dialog and nonexistent direction actually seem to jibe with Shatner’s bizarre overacting tics.  “Nick of Time” can’t compete with “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” for over the top hilarity but even in the lesser vessels the Shatnerian touch is still a force to be reckoned with.

“To Serve Man” and “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” are surprise ending stories that I can only think of as jokes.  For each, the whole episode is the set up for the reveal.  I find them amusing.  Let’s say personal preference.

And that brings us to the best and maybe the only truly original story in the whole series, “It’s a Good Life.”  The short story is even better than the teleplay but both are very effective.  Definitely worth viewing.

So that’s it.  If you’re a Burgess Meredith or a Jack Klugman fan there are a couple of episodes you can add and if you’re sentimental there is Christmas episode with Art Carney as Santa Claus that’s kind of cute.  But I’d be kidding myself if I said I watched them out of anything other than force of habit.  Your mileage may vary but this is my take.

18JUL2018 – OCF Update

Greetings readers old and new.  As is my want, or as less pretentious people would say, my habit, I like to let you know what is coming up on the site.  This week is my annual stay-cation.  For eight full days I make believe that my corporate masters have been swallowed up by some beneficent plague that only spared the good.  I revel in the joys of summer and put all cares aside.  After monsoon-like thunderstorms deluged us yesterday, the world has been swept clean and the air is hot and dry just the way I like it.  I’m hosting my annual family reunion on Saturday but with days off on both sides of the big event, I see plenty of time to produce excellent OCF posts all week.

  • I’m renting the “Contemporary Series” version of the Sigma 150-600 lens and the Sony 90mm Macro lens.  They should arrive today and allow me to post on how they perform for the things I would use them for.
  • I plan to yammer on about the joys of summer.
  • I have a photo post I’m going to write about moths and butterflies and maybe other insects in my area.
  • I have some things to say about several political topics.
  • I’ll start reading some more sci-fi which may provide a review this week.
  • I plan on doing some classic movie reviews.
  • I might have some country music reviews coming up too.
  • And I plan to include this summer’s installment of my rant about the Twilight Zone.

Looks like a good week to visit the site.

Galaxy’s Edge (Volume 4) – Attack of Shadows – A Science Fiction Book Review

Kill Team – Galaxy’s Edge (Volume 3) by Jason Anspach & Nick Cole – A Science Fiction Book Review

The fourth installment in the Galaxy’s Edge series is a straight up mil-sf story chronicling the Battle of Tarrago.  In this sense, it most resembles the first book in this series, “Legionnaire.”  But whereas Legionnaire involved a small force of soldiers scrambling to survive on the outskirts of a larger action, “Attack of Shadows” is the chronicle of a full-blown invasion that plays out not only on the surfaces of a planet and its moon but also in open space.  There is a full contingent of minor characters and any number of set pieces.  There are dog fights between attack fighters, pitched infantry battles, kamikaze bombing runs and battle ships going toe to toe with the big guns.  And then there is Goth Sullus, basically the bogey man.  He is probably modelled after Darth Vader and shares many of his abilities and personality traits.  If you’ve been following my book reviews of the series then you know that the authors have obviously riffed on some of the central features of the Star Wars story.  There is a Galactic Republic rapidly turning into an Empire.  Corrupt leaders are forcing normally loyal military men to become outlaws and apparently there is no shortage of smugglers, bounty hunters, space pirates and even princesses!  And surprisingly, the imitation is far superior to the original.  The characters are infinitely more interesting, the plots actually make sense and the action is extremely well done.

One of the interesting features of the story is the civil war aspect to the conflict.  Basically, the fighting is taking place between Legionnaires fighting on both sides.  And whereas the leaders on both sides are often shown as underhanded there are no cardboard cutout villains in the trenches fighting for either side.  Valor is prominently on display on both sides and realistically, it is often rewarded with death.

Because of the large number of subplots and characters, the chapters are broken down into a very large number of independent scenes that ping pong the action back and forth between the two sides and the multiple locations.  But the storytelling doesn’t suffer because of it and my interest was never lost.

From my point of view this book confirmed my feeling that the military sf aspects of this series are the best part of it.  When the series veers into other scenarios like espionage or individual adventures the story is satisfactory but when the battle scenes erupt the story sings.  It is definitely their strong suit.

So the rebels are led by Darth Vader.  Who am I supposed to be cheering for?  Actually, at this point I’m cheering for Darth Vader, uh, I mean Goth Sullus.  And based on the way the elite leadership of the Republic despises the general population of the galaxy I wouldn’t be surprised if Goth takes of his helmet and is revealed to be Donald Trump.

So, do I have any complaints?  Yes, there are a few too many women running their military and flying their fighter ships.  But at least they don’t appear to be feminist scolds.  And they haven’t tried to add women to the Legion.  That elite fighting force is all men.  So on balance no real problems with the world building.

Summing up, “Attack of Shadows” is the most entertaining book so far in the Galaxy’s Edge series and I highly recommend it to fans of military science fiction.

The Incredibles 2 – A Science Fiction & Fantasy Movie Review

The trailer for this movie says it is fourteen years since the original Incredibles debuted.  That must be true but because at that time I had neither children nor grandchildren of an age to watch it I missed its appearance altogether.  Probably four or five years ago I read that it was probably the only Disney film of recent vintage without a truly ponderous social justice taint so I took it out and liked it.  I watched it with the grandkids and they really liked it too.  But when I saw the coming attractions for the sequel I was annoyed to find a bunch of blather about Mr. Incredible being relegated to Mr. Mom and Elasti-Girl (Mrs. Incredible) being the heroic superhero who earns the daily bread.  And so, it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I took Camera Girl and the two older grandsons to the dying local movie palace to see the film.

Well, my fears were unnecessary.  The movie is good.  By the necessity of a sequel being somewhat derivative by its very nature Incredibles 2 may not rate as highly by some measures and to some audiences.  I found it extremely enjoyable.  Aside from any measures of technical or visual excellence the story line is meager as expected for this genre but acceptable, the main characters retain their original charm and the interactions between the family members defines the heart of the movie.  It is a celebration of the traditional nuclear family.  Mr. Incredible is a 1950s Dad.  Elasti-Girl could be Donna Reed and the kids are the usual bundle of sibling rivalry, growing pains and mischief but whenever the chips are down the family pulls together to save the day and each other.

I’ll keep this short.  If you have kids or grandkids bring them to this movie.  And if you don’t, then go see it yourself.  You’ll have a good time.  My personal favorite scene in the movie is Mr. Incredible coming to terms with his kid’s “new math” homework.  His anguished cry of, “Why would they change math?”, brought back such memories of exactly the same scene in my home that I probably laughed out loud in the theater like an idiot.  Maybe there is still some hope for Disney.  I mean I doubt it, but at least they didn’t alter the characters.  They’re still who they were and still a lot of fun.

Valentine Pontifex – Volume Three of the Majipoor Cycle by Robert Silverberg – A Science Fiction-Fantasy  Book Review

This review is for both the final volume and also an overall review of the series.  I got started reading this series a while ago because of an on-line discussion I had on Orion’s Cold Fire (OCF) with Tom about whether there were any stories that could be considered science fiction and also fantasy.  Tom pointed to the Majipoor Cycle and piqued my curiosity enough that I picked up the books.  For the curious my reviews of the two earlier volumes are here and here.  If you don’t want any spoilers then put this aside until you’ve read those reviews (and possibly the books) and then decide if you want to risk this review.  Otherwise here we go.

The Majipoor books have been a fairly unique experience.  They combine a relatively straight forward adventure tale with a world-building framework that tries to encapsulate approximately ten thousand years of the colonization of a new world by a number of cooperating intelligent alien species.  And Silverberg is an idiosyncratic writer with a style that came of age in the 1960s.  This combines to create a very complex and sometimes meandering tale.

In the third book, Valentine Pontifex, the eponymous protagonist of the first book, Lord Valentine, is re-established as the principal ruler of Majipoor and is preparing for a triumphal tour of the far-flung cities of his realm when premonitions of disaster begin intruding on his mind.  In Majipoor dreams are regarded as legitimate warnings from the reigning spiritual powers, the King of Dreams and the Lady of the Isle.  Under this cloud Valentine and his friends and advisors begin the ill-fated Processional and unsurprisingly a long series of disasters occur.  Valentine identifies these cataclysms with a karmic reaction to the original conquest of Majipoor and attempts to expiate this original sin through diplomacy and love.  The tension between his actions and the situation on the ground makes up the action of the story.

Valentine Pontifex is, as I mentioned, a very complicated and meandering story line.  There are close to a dozen threads weaving through the book with their own characters, locations and subplots, some more important to the main narrative and some less so.  And Silverberg provides a veritable Tolkienian plethora of Majipoorian names.  There is a veritable blizzard of names; names of cities, regions, rivers, forests, animals, trees, fruit, cereal crops, food dishes, wines, medicines and people.  Also Valentine’s character is of a contemplative and judicious nature so that he agonizes a good deal about the conflicting needs of the various parties involved.  Luckily some of the other characters are less conflicted and help to push the action forward.

Another aspect of the story and the Majipoor series in general is the metaphorical nature of the story.  To my mind, Majipoor is a metaphor for the English colonization of the United States.  The aboriginal inhabitants of Majipoor, the Shapeshifters, defeated and relegated to life on an inhospitable reservation, are a stand in for the Native Americans.  The other species brought to Majipoor by the humans equate to the other nationalities and races that have immigrated to the United States.  To be honest, I am not a big fan of this kind of representation.  All too often this kind of metaphorical story telling is just a chance to bash this country and curry favor with the social justice apparatchiks.  And Valentine does have a certain amount of the Jimmy Carter syndrome in his make-up.  There is even a subplot that involves humans hunting and harvesting an intelligent water dwelling species that is the equivalent of whales.

Looking at all these detrimental story elements, you would be unsurprised if I gave Valentine Pontifex and the Majipoor cycle in general a failing grade.  I’m going to instead provide an opinion that combines warning with guarded approval.

My first statement will be the warning.  Majipoor is not for those who are looking for fast-paced adventure and classic fantasy ala Middle Earth.  It is not that.  And if you absolutely are not in the mood to hear about the rights of the dispossessed aborigines skip this story.  And lastly, if you have a very strong aversion to human/lizard-man romances then absolutely skip the second volume Majipoor Chronicles.  As mentioned in my review of that book, this was a weakness of Silverberg living through the Crazy Years of the 1960s.  For them sex was something they had to inject into any scenario.

So those are all the reasons to skip Majipoor.  Now, here’s the guarded approval.  Silverberg has created a genuinely interesting universe.  His characters are engaging and genuinely recognizable humans (even the non-humans).  The story, for the most part, works within its boundaries and despite some pacing problems gets to the finish line intact.  For someone interested in a fusion of science fiction and fantasy the Majipoor books are a quirky read.  Let’s say it’s for the hard-core sf&f connoisseur.

Vox Day Has a Good Link on the Star Wars Debacle

So, it seems Disney has realized that Kathleen Kennedy drove the Star Wars franchise into the ground by turning a boys’ adventure fantasy into a girl empowerment snoozefest.  And according to the source quoted nobody is willing to take over from her because the risk is too great.  http://voxday.blogspot.com/2018/06/will-no-one-rid-disney-of-this.html .

Oh, this is too much!  Can schadenfreude cause a stroke?  I laughed so hard I think I burst an aneurysm in my brain.  When you add up the ESPN, Star Wars and the Roseanne debacles SJWs must have cost Disney at least several billion dollars in lost revenue.  Can you imagine the heat that Iger must be feeling?  Oh, it’s marvelous.  And with the ninth movie of the Star Wars saga in production already and J.J. Abrams refusing to take more than directorial control over that pile of risk I wouldn’t be surprised if the House of Disney doesn’t have a major shake-up on the horizon.  It couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of progressives.

Read the whole thing including the info at the link and the comments at Vox Popoli, they’re hysterical.  It’s like a textbook case of feminism running a male based activity straight into the ditch.  Oh, my poor ribs, they ache.

Let’s review, Disney pays Lucas umpty-ump billions of dollars for a franchise that is basically a boomer/millennial male-bonding experience and they let a bitter feminist turn it into young Rosie O’Donnell with a light saber meets the First Wives’ Club.  With apologies to Count Rugen, I think that’s the worst thing I ever heard.  Is it possible that Disney is purposefully bankrupting itself to help tank the economy to spite Trump?  It seems plausible.  I mean no one could be this stupid right?

Full disclosure, I’m not the target audience for any of these movies.  I thought the first Star Wars movie was great fun when I saw it on the big screen back in the seventies.  But the second one was kind of disjointed and not as much fun.  The third one was a hot mess.  I mean, ewoks?  After that I was glad that it seemed to be over.  The newer editions are by most accounts terrible and I couldn’t imagine wasting time on them.  But I brought my grandsons to see the seventh one and I was amazed at how derivative it was from the first movie and how unpleasant it turned out.  Now, I’m far from disappointed that the series looks to be going down for the count.  What someone should do is start a new series based on an interesting and fun sci-fi or fantasy series that will draw kids and their parents in.  Hell, they could update the Lensman series and they’d get more mileage out of that than they’ve managed from Lucas’ anemic vision.  The same can be said for the Marvel and DC cinema series.  They’ve milked those characters and story arcs so strenuously that there’s nothing left but watery skim.

So, read the article and get a good laugh.  But honestly, we’re going to need to let these movie studios go broke.  They’re too stupid to live.

Deadpool 2 – A Very Warped Science Fiction and Fantasy Movie Review

Deadpool was my favorite movie of 2016.  I saw the movie on a recommendation and really didn’t know what to expect.  But from the first moment of the intro with Angel of the Morning playing over the comedic version of the credits revolving around a freeze-framed photo of a hyperkinetic centrifugal multi-villain murdering automobile rollover I knew it was gonna be great.  Now granted, Deadpool viewing does come with some penalties.  Deadpool is a fan of Wham and George Michael in general.  This is painful.  The end credits roles through an entire Wham song.    So, you take the good with the bad.

I went to see Deadpool 2 today.  I won’t put in any spoilers.  In the latest installment Deadpool puts together a team that he calls X-Force because he says X-Men is too sexist.  He faces off against Josh Brolin as a time travelling mercenary called Cable who sports a bionic arm.  And the scene where they first deploy as a team is hysterically funny.  Negasonic Teenage Warhead is back but this time with hair and a Japanese girlfriend.  Colossus is also back and even develops a little edge by the end of the movie.  And Morena Baccarin and Leslie Uggams and that doofus from Silicon Valley are back too.  And once again Wade Wilson is plunged into despair.  And that means he will be employing barrels full of ultra-violence and mayhem will rain down on his enemies and of course also hilariously on his unkillable self.  There is a scene where Deadpool is regenerating his lower body that is truly disturbing and symptomatic of some psychotic issues among the writers.  And there is plenty of truly horrendous schmaltzy music.  But Deadpool keeps the terrible sight gags and banter flowing throughout the show.  And there are even a few scenes of tenderness and love.  And unlike the terrible unhappy ending of Avengers: Infinity War, if you stick around during the credits there’s a bonus that sets some things straight.

Deadpool is a guilty pleasure.  He is obscene, sacrilegious, depraved and extremely gross.  But it cannot be denied that he is funny.  And in our increasingly humorless politically correct environment that alone should be enough to justify the time spent.

26MAY2018 – OCF Update

The thirty degree mornings have relented.  There is a break in the seemingly endless succession of torrential rain and wind storms.  I have a non-work day where I can cut the grass and put the yard in post-winter order.So today may be a bit slow.  What’s on tap and coming up soon:

  1. Photos from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
  2. Photo essay on the Sigma 150-600 Sports lens on the A7 III.
  3. Book Review on Robert Silverberg’s “Valentine Pontifex.”
  4. Book Review on “Kill Team (Galaxy’s Edge Book 3).”
  5. Book Review on “Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past.”
  6. Review of the Vanguard Alta GH-300T Grip Head for heavy lens shooting.
  7. Review of Deadpool 2.
  8. Review of Capture One 11 Photo Editing Software.
  9. President Trump’s summary firing of the intelligence agency conspirators.  Wait I’m not supposed to write that.  Let’s call that Trump Humor.

And some of these may not be in this order.  I am human after all and sometimes the mood strikes me to switch stuff up.  So stay tuned.

Avengers: Infinity War – A Science Fiction and Fantasy Movie Review

Spoiler alert.  If you don’t want to know how this movie ends don’t read this.  But just know that I don’t recommend this movie.

Last week was a birthday party for one of my grandsons.  I was talking to my two older grandsons (13 and 10 years old) and told them I’d seen a commercial for The Incredibles Part 2.  They told me it was already out so I told them I’d take them to see it Saturday. (May 19th).  Well I checked the theater listings on Friday and it turns out The Incredibles doesn’t start playing until June.  Not wanting to disappoint the kids I asked them if there was anything else out they wanted to see.  Well, they said The Avengers.  I’d brought them to see the first two and they were pretty good.  But I’d heard that the third one (Civil War) was starting to get lefty preachy so I skipped it.  So, I went to Infinity War with some trepidation.  And I had good cause.

This movie is a hot mess.  They threw everything and the kitchen sink into it.  There’s all the Avenger characters, then they added in the Guardians of the Galaxy crew for good measure.  Then there was someone called Doctor Strange and some stray characters with him.  He seemed to be some kind of imitation Dr. Who – Time Lord character.  Then they threw in the Black Panther characters.  And just in case there was anyone who wanted more, they threw in Spiderman.  All these various characters are working together to defeat Thanos.  He’s collecting the Infinity Stones and if he gets all six of them he’ll be able to perform his plan which is to kill half of all the intelligent beings in the Universe.  There’s all kinds of battles and fights and at the end Thanos wins and his power kills half of the world.  You see half of the Avengers and the other super heroes evaporating into dust.

Now, what the hell kind of Super Hero movie is that to bring kids to?  The good guys lose and half of everyone in the world dies.  Of course, in the next movie they’ll bring them all back to life but what a depressing stupid mess!  Thanks Marvel.  Well I sure hope they don’t ruin the Incredibles too.  Honestly, I’m starting to wonder if the only movies worth watching are from a generation ago.  I’m going to start making a list of the movies that we watched as kids and renting or buying them so the grandkids have stuff worth watching.